• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Hiro

Japanese pastry vs French pastry

90 posts in this topic

Hi although my english is not very well, i try to open this forum to give me a knowledge about pastry worlds.

Recently i read in some web sites, that japanese pastry and cakes including boulangerie are far better than french in taste and shape, is that true because i never taste french pastry in France (off course !!). what i really want to know is , is that true that french pastry is not in progress, i meant is not having any innovations or somethings, but things that bother me is some said that japanese student is choose france to taske pastry course. isn't that confusing, so does it mean that the people that makes the different not the technics..is it ?? :unsure:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Hiro, and welcome to eGullet!

I think it's impossible to generalize that Japanese pastries are "better" than French pastries, or that Japanese chefs are more innovative, but Japanese pastries and indeed Japanese baking in general (whether it's bread, cookies, cakes, or pastries) is different than Western baking in several respects: Japanese products are generally light vs. dense or heavier, less buttery, and less sweet.

In great part, that's to cater to Japanese tastes. I can't give you an equivalent example in French pastry, but about 20 years ago, when American Mrs. Fields cookies chain entered Japan, they changed the recipe for their cookies to suit the Japanese market: the Japanese cookies contain less butter and less sugar than Mrs. Fields cookies sold in the USA.

There are also differences in ingredients. Japanese flour is different than American or French flour. The butter is different because the cows graze in different fields. Breads and pastries are often made with yeast that's a product of sake-brewing, leading to a different flavor as well.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank's. so i think what makes it different is depend on culture and region,,hmm so baking is far than beyond my imagination. so its just like some people love spicy and some people dont . and so i see , we cant see it in narrow point of view, taste has no limit does it ?. but for you suzy which style do you like french or japan, and why ?

The fish swims ; there is no end to the water--The birds flies; There is no end to the sky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just my own taste and opinions, and by no means a general judgement (I know many people will disagree with me, especially about the second paragraph).

I have been pleasantly surprised with pastry in Japan, whether French-style or Japanese-style, and I adored the "fusion" pastry some Japanese pastry chefs make out of Japanese ingredients using French techniques. I thought they were using, whatever style they were working in, a lighter and more balanced touch than French pastry chefs, and their sense of the harmony of tastes was much more refined. I am not a pastry fan, but in Japan I was delighted.

I have a problem with French pâtisserie as it is made now, especially recent-style, hyped "jewelry" pastry like Pierre Hermé or Sadaharu Aoki. Simple recipes (cookies, pâtes de fruits) are delicious but once it gets more complicated it all collapses, IMO. The proportions of sugar, fatty creams and animal gelatin are far too important, and the pastries feel too sweet and too fatty. The flavors, especially of fruit, are drowned in a sea of sweetness and soft greasiness. Macarons, one of the most hyped pastries, are most of the time cloying. I like it when pastry doesn't stick to your palate, when the taste of crusts, batters and fruit come out clean, pure, concentrated. As for the daring taste associations these chefs are famous for, except for the most obvious like raspberry-lychee, I've found out that many of them don't work for me. But I always thought that Japanese pastry chefs (in Japan) had a much more sensible touch and did get things right.

Also, as Suzy rightly pointed out, in Japan they use less sugar and less fat. So there is more taste.

There are roughly two schools in French modern pastry, the "oversweetened" and the "undersweetened". It seems that most of the pastry chefs of the second school work away from France, or in restaurant kitchens (and they never open shops). Homestyle and traditional pastry (cakes, pies, tartes), which is more the insipration of the latter school, are generally not very sweet and focused on texture (crunchy, soft, crispy, flaky, etc.) and taste (the taste of fruit, and the right use of acidity). But the high-gelatin, high-fat, high-sugar, too-bitter-chocolate style is very much in right now. Maybe it is just the French taste, because even a Japanese pastry chef like Aoki (whose pastries are the most beautiful I've ever seen), who is established in Paris, tends to produce oversweetened pastries too.

The very best French-style pastry I've ever eaten was that of Frédéric Robert, who used to be a pastry chef for Ducasse for years and now works in the US. He understood the need for crisp tastes and pure flavors, his fruit-pastry ratio was extremely generous to the former, and his work on textures was amazing. Probably still is. I always regretted that he couldn't become more famous in France and make his style more appreciated. Now he's one of the many wonderful French pastry chefs who work everywhere but in France.

My description of French pastry concerns only shop-bought pastry. Indeed the desserts and pastries served in good restaurants are quite different and closer to my liking. There seems to be a difference of styles there too, shop pastry and restaurant pastry, and they don't communicate much. There are wonderful pastry chefs in France but they mostly seem to be found in restaurant kitchens. There also is Christophe Felder, who is still here with us, but he's less exposed to the media and doesn't have a shop in Paris.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Hiro,

I'm no pastry chef but travel to Japan and Europe and eat my way thru! In Japan, you have amazing traditional wagashi as can be found at Toraya or Minamoto Kitchoan amongst many others. Maybe, you can say they are similar to Fauchon or Lenotre in France.....only that they sell different things.

Pierre Herme and many other French chefs have taken Japanese influence into his baking just like Japanese patissiers like Hidemi Sugino have taken lots of his influence from France. You guys have a natural talent and ability to take what is foreign add some twist to it and make it original again. Kasutera, Tempura, Chado and Ramen all have foreign roots, but are all very much Japanese.

Also, if you were a pastry student and were given an opportunity to go to France to learn the original European techniques as well as to broaden your horizons to see the world, won't you go?

I'm sure there are lots of innovations not only in France, but all over the world, only that we don't hear about them where we are. Geert Renmans, a really sought after chocolatier in here told me last night that he travels to Europe to get new ideas and learn new ways of doing things.

His recent innovations include salmon/chocolate and smoked duck/chocolate. He saw these in Europe and just last week, purchased Frederic Bau's chocolate fusion from France. Geert is truly an artist, passionate about what he does and always willing to experiment. And the fact that he's only been in Asia for 5 years and travels back a few times a year should mean that there truly are innovations happening there!

But Geert shared a secret with us. Everywhere he goes, if he sees something interesting, he either takes a picture of it or collects it. It may be non-pastry related things. He keeps everything in a scrapbook and goes back to this scrapbook for ideas and inspiration to come up with something new.

Just listening to Geert, it tells me very much that its not the technique, but the person.

I'd rather eat bland food cooked by someone who did it with all their heart than amazing food cooked by someone without passion.


Edited by NickLam (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, what a great question, Hiro.

Well you know that people will have their opinions about what's better. Your noticing that at the same time you're reading that Japanese pastries are better, you're also reading about all these Japanese people coming to France to do their apprenticeships, and your question is - Why?

The international winners for the baguette competition were Japanese not too many years ago. I have no doubt that the Japanese are excellent with their skills and abilities.

I know two very nice and very passionate about pastry Japanese people who did long stages here at boulangerie/patisseries in Lyon. Their reason was that they wanted to learn the French methods. I think it is more about mastering a certain method, rather than which one is better based on level of innovation, etc. My Japanese friends said that the apprenticeship system here in France really allows for them to learn the craft completely by getting a chance to learn from the chef just about every possible aspect of the business. This could be the reason why your friends are choosing to go to France for their apprenticeships.

I have never tasted Japanese pastry but I would love to one day. :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi although my english is not very well, i try to open this forum to give me a knowledge about pastry worlds.

Recently i read in some web sites, that japanese pastry and cakes including boulangerie are far better than french in taste and shape, is that true because i never taste french pastry in France (off course !!). what i really want to know is , is that true that french pastry is not in progress, i meant is not having any innovations or somethings, but things that bother me is some said that japanese student is choose france to taske pastry course. isn't that confusing, so does it mean that the people that makes the different not the technics..is it ?? :unsure:

To make it short, I'd say that Japanese students follow pastry courses in France in order to learn the basics, and then once they're back in Japan they apply what they have learned adding up their own talent and lightness of touch, and they very probably (according to what I've tasted) manage to improve on the original.

The French-style pastry I've had in Japan was generally high-quality, and often much better than anything I could eat in fancy French pâtisseries.

As for French pastry not being in progress, I'm not sure, but your remark does ring a bell. Good pastry chefs are increasingly hard to come by in France, restaurant chefs seek them wide and far and dread losing the ones they have. During my travels I found out that many of them were actually working abroad... Could the French pastry chef be an export article? As for pâtisserie in pastry shops, on the other hand, it is becoming increasingly less good than it used to be, and good pâtisseries have become rare. The fame of trendy chic and sophisticated pâtissiers like Pierre Hermé, to me, obscures the fact that the French high-quality pastry shop as an institution is slowly disappearing. In Paris and provincial towns, many top-notch pâtisseries have been closing during the last few years and were replaced by travel agencies or clothes shops.

And the new trends, which I have described in my other post, are much hyped and loved by the media but, qualitywise, I find them extremely disappointing, overcomplicated and fussy, and not up to the quality of the disappearing French art of pastry.

So, yes, I think there's some truth in what you write, but I don't believe you should be confused, for it all makes sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I travel to Paris and Tokyo at least once a year and have done so for many years. The best croissants and viennoiserie I've ever had was in Tokyo. It was at the Cerulean Tower Hotel and every day for ten days I'm sure that French trainiing was involved. But the Japanese execution bordered on the incredible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
suzy which style do you like french or japan, and why ?

Personally, I've always been impressed by Japanese-style French pastry because of its more delicate touch.

Back in 1973, on my first trip to Japan, a friend met me at my Tokyo hotel bearing a gift of two pieces of cake, both on genoise bases: one layered with whipped cream and slices of ice-cold fresh honeydew melon, the other with perfectly ripe canteloupe. Biting into them on a sweltering summer afternoon I was awed. In my personal experience before and since then, noplace else has ever presented cakes with filled with fresh melon, yet it was such a perfect combination!

When in France, I prefer to order classic pastries such as fresh fruit tarts (raspberries or pears being my favorite) or local specialties such as cannele rather than frou-frou new wave pastries, which as Ptipois says, are too full of fat, air, and gelatin.

Still, I think that Japanese pastry chefs often make a pilgrimage to France to gain a grounding in techniques because that's the original source.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Japanese are very good at learning something from a culture, then improving it (ie: American baseball.)

Some of the best chocolate & pastry shops open in Tokyo since Japanese tend to be pursuaded by 'names' and 'brands' and will pay for them. If you go into Le Grand Epicerie in Paris, the Japanese are buying products based on the pictures in the guidebooks in their hands, not necessarily for taste or because they're any good. Same with desserts by people like Pierre Hermé or the $200 melon at Takashimaya: it's all about the price and packaging. I know very few people that buy tea at Fauchon or Hediard, where it's more about the branding and labels. And while I love going into Pierre Hermé, I would say less than 1% of my French friends go there to buy pastries.

I was at a dinner party recently and someone had mentioned they went in to Hermé and pastries were 7 euros each, which cause a minor uproar at the table! (I argued that was a small price to pay for such an experience...but no one seemed to be pursuaded.) People I know here are scandalized by the price of Laduree macarons.

Same with upscale restaurants, where the ratio for natives to visitors seems to be about 50-50; most of them have to cater to out-of-towners since few locals go to those places or will pay those prices.

I agree with Ptipois that the French get stuck, which I think has to do with their provincialism (which is why the French classics are usually done very well in France, and new innovations and food trends tend to fall rather flat.) Part of it has to do with the fact that France is a great country, but there is a tendancy to rest on those laurels and not feel the need to improve or adapt. The Japanese tend to want to succeed and excel at whatever they do.

And most of the time, French cooks don't look outside their culture for inspiration...and why should they when what they have is so incredible? And in my experience, when they do, the results are rather disasterous. I had a multi-course meal where everthing was dusted with lots and lots of cumin powder recently (at Le Pre Verre) and wondered what the heck were they thinking? I avoid fusion food here, since it's just not done well. But there are excellent ethnic restaurants here (Vietnamese, North Africans, etc...) if you know where to go.

They're just not a 'fusion' culture.

(On another note, they built a new, upscale shopping center in Tokyo, which I was reading about this week in the NYTimes. Many shoppers were complaining that it was too 'European-style', which they said meant that there weren't many bathrooms to be found. It was a rather funny comparison if you've witnessed the ease of finding a bathroom in Tokyo, versus locating one in Paris.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree with Ptipois that the French get stuck, which I think has to do with their provincialism (which is why the French classics are usually done very well in France, and new innovations and food trends tend to fall rather flat.)

We do agree, but I don't incriminate provincialism in this case, and much less the inability to innovate. French pâtisserie used to be good once, it could be good again, so maybe the solution is not in "innovation".

I incriminate not provincialism, but parisianism, whose characteristics sometimes include clever ways of courting the international clientèle. The best pâtisseries left in France are not in Paris. A bit more of our good old provincialism blown back into the current pâtisserie trends would probably improve things and maybe bring on some kind of rebirth, with new pâtisseries opening again, etc. French pastry is doing very well outside of France, that's the problem. Store-bought pâtisserie in France has become increasingly mediocre. There are not that many locals coming to Pierre Hermé's (most of the French people I know go there only once and never come back) because it doesn't correspond to their standards of good French pastry. It is definitely a different taste, it doesn't taste "French". Personally I'm not interested. The current macaron fad is, to me, a clear sign of the emphasis currently placed on sugariness and prettiness, not on taste (most macaron crusts are not flavored but colored, even at Pierre Hermé's: the taste is in the filling. But you do need a lot of sugar to hold them together).

I think the art of French pastry has been partly lost, or at least that it has emigrated. I like the idea of good French pastry illuminating the world, but I'm sad at the idea that it's getting difficult, in Paris for instance, to get decent, tasty, fruity, buttery, crispy store-bought pastry that is not laden with too much sugar, greasy buttercream, sickeningly unctuous fillings, tons of wobbly bavarois, or headache-inducing ganache. This is only my opinion but I personally solve the problem by avoiding trendy and expensive pâtisseries, and sticking to the remaining modest neighborhood artisans. Also, I've noticed that some traiteurs still do things right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was at a dinner party recently and someone had mentioned they went in to Hermé and pastries were 7 euros each, which cause a minor uproar at the table! (I argued that was a small price to pay for such an experience...but no one seemed to be pursuaded.) People I know here are scandalized by the price of Laduree macarons.

I, too, think 7 euros for a Pierre Hermé individual pastry is way too expensive. Of course most of what you pay for is the added glamour, and the price includes the fees for the army of designers, packaging advisers and communication agents involved in the final look of the thing, but the ingredients and savoir-faire are those of classical pastry. Even the "supplément de talent", if there is one, IMO, is not enough to justify the high price. Before Nouvelle Pâtisserie appeared, and we hadn't been collectively gypped by the adoption of the euro, a good individual pâtisserie could be purchased for 7 to 11 francs.

The French, in relation to their cuisine, seem to have an innate sense of what they call "rapport qualité-prix", price-quality ratio, and there is a level of price above which the ratio is just not interesting anymore, whatever the quality. Of course it is much easier for the French than for anyone else, it has to do with our cultural marks. Our collective memory is fed with examples of eating wonderfully at home or elsewhere for reasonable prices, though this knowledge seems to be waning. Of course they will splurge and, rarely, spend a lot of money on extraordinary food, "en connaissance de cause", because they will feel that the ratio is good. But they just don't seem to think that Nouvelle Pâtisserie is up to those standards. I don't, at any rate.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm, Ptipois, you're putting forth a pretty strong indictment of French patisseries. As a 3-time American visitor to your country, I can't agree, from my standpoint. I love French patisseries. I do have a sweet tooth, but the pastries were by no means just sugar; au contraire, the French really know what to do with rhubarb, for example.

I also am wondering whether you've been to Orleans. The best patisserie we ran found during our last trip to Paris and through Burgundy and the Loire Valley was in Orleans. I'm pretty sure that I'm remembering correctly that it was on the east side of rue de la Republique just south of Place Albert 1iere. Everything we tried there was great, but the chocolates were especially good! This might possibly go along with your point that there are better pastries to be found in the provinces. I also mentioned in another thread yesterday or the day before that the best pates de fruits I've had, by far, were purchased in a little boulangerie/patisserie on a quiet crossroads in a small town in Burgundy -- Vermenton, probably. The ones they gave us at Grand Vefour were nowhere near as fruity, though I don't think they were sweeter, just insipid by comparison.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They're just not a 'fusion' culture.

David, ours is a fusion culture, just like any other. You're right in the fact that many French have forgotten this in the latter part of the 20th century. But the French way of operating fusion is not by adding together, juxtaposing and sometimes mixing: it is done by absorbing, by making a heterogeneous element "completely French". Which makes the fusion not apparent, but it still is fusion.

French cuisine absorbed every single spice brought in from the Colonies and Comptoirs in the 17th and 18th century. It absorbed ingredients from the New World (potatoes, beans, tomatoes, etc.) just like other European countries. It absorbed Italian court cuisine in the 16th century and that was the origin of modern French cuisine. It absorbed the many foreign influences from across borders through their "frontalier" regions, i.e. Savoie, Comté de Nice, Pays Basque, Flanders. A little-remembered fact, it absorbed much Russian cuisine and table service in the 19th century, an influence that remained visible until the 1970's and Nouvelle cuisine, and the curiosity for non-french cuisines was quite strong in the first part of the 20th century, as period domestic cookbooks will tell. Cassoulet (see the ingredients), the quintessential French dish, is typically a fusion dish. French culture was built from many fusions and influences, but it is true that it doesn't look that way, and most of the time it won't admit it. One of the most important modern French cultural illusions is this belief of being homogenous and sui generis, which is our particular brand of chauvinism. But one doesn't have to believe it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes..Doumo arigatou Minna san...> thanks to all of you who replying this forum.

To Ptipois yup you know what i meant its anbout texture and balanced maybe because when japanese making wagashi/the traditional cakes they must make it according to the changing of the seasons so they have balanced, no offence i think france people doesnt reakky concern about this (sorry if i am wrong), i think japanese people is having a similiar technique as what nicklam told about mr.geert story about picking a new picture from everythings to give a new ideas, so japanese goes to france to widen the view and technique.to bleudauvergneg to see wagashi try this site its just one of the best wagashi store (i guess?)http://www.toraya-group.co.jp/english/wagashi/art.html.

and to pirate i think you often travel back and forth from paris to japan and i think you agree about liking japanase pastry more than french. to suzy mahalo to replying. i agree with david lebovitz that japanese looking for names and brands, i dont if this can become a source but i've watch japanese movies about praising a tea branded Benoit, i dont i could wrong but maybe its true..the names and brands things. to pan i think ptipois is not talking about which one is better, from the begining i choose "what is the differents" not which one is best, so i hope everyones who replying this forum free to choose what they like not which one is better. by the i love american food too, they fast and some is deadly :laugh: its a joke,no i love american food i can find it in every corner.

I love to read history i dont know if this is related, but sometimes i found that something/someone sometimes well known not from its origin like sidharta gautama (i hope i'm not offend somebody or religion) he's from india but budhist larger community is not in india, and more similiar story, could be french pastry becoming like that ?? who knows

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hmmm, Ptipois, you're putting forth a pretty strong indictment of French patisseries. As a 3-time American visitor to your country, I can't agree, from my standpoint. I love French patisseries. I do have a sweet tooth, but the pastries were by no means just sugar; au contraire, the French really know what to do with rhubarb, for example.

I also am wondering whether you've been to Orleans. The best patisserie we ran found during our last trip to Paris and through Burgundy and the Loire Valley was in Orleans. I'm pretty sure that I'm remembering correctly that it was on the east side of rue de la Republique just south of Place Albert 1iere. Everything we tried there was great, but the chocolates were especially good! This might possibly go along with your point that there are better pastries to be found in the provinces. I also mentioned in another thread yesterday or the day before that the best pates de fruits I've had, by far, were purchased in a little boulangerie/patisserie on a quiet crossroads in a small town in Burgundy -- Vermenton, probably. The ones they gave us at Grand Vefour were nowhere near as fruity, though I don't think they were sweeter, just insipid by comparison.

This is not in contradiction with what I wrote. I made it clear that "good pâtisseries, in France, are not in Paris". That means provincial towns, which still have good pastry shops. And your mention of the Grand Véfour allows me to point out that what is particularly wrong in French pâtisserie centers around Paris. In the provinces, all is not lost quite yet. However, I am less optimistic than you are, because indeed, even in the regions, good pâtisseries are disappearing gradually. Rouen used to be one of the greatest French cities for pastry, with outstanding viennoiserie and butter pastries, and now most of its nice pâtisseries have closed.

I am not mentioning the boulangeries-pâtisseries because they are not representative. The truth is that you can't really trust a boulangerie-pâtisserie, and that is for economic reasons: in most of them, a pâtisserie section is needed to insure a financial balance that couldn't be established with the bread sales only, because the price of the baguette is controlled and supposedly lower than the production costs. But this pâtisserie section is generally not very interesting. I'm referring to true pâtissiers-chocolatiers, the ones that don't sell any bread. And they're in trouble too, even if they still go on in the provinces.

The decline of the French pâtisserie is mostly a Parisian phenomenon; the provinces follow at a slow pace but eventually they do follow, and that's exactly why I was blaming Parisianism, not provincialism, earlier on.

Oh, about rhubarb. The French are indeed not very good at dealing with rhubarb, or rather are not very good anymore, but Alsatians still are. And many French pâtissiers are from Alsace. I'm ready to bet that the nice experiences that you had with rhubarb in France were caused either by an Alsatian pâtissier, or by someone dealing with rhubarb in really old-fashioned ways.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ptipois ca va ?, hey i just want to say thank's (for what ,you may ask??) because your post really 2x "open up" my eyes about french pastry, i know maybe it's just a post for other, but it mean so much to me.

merci beaucoups

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ptipois, from my standpoint, the decline you've noticed is from a very high starting point. Yes, I had better patisserie outside of Paris. But I enjoyed tartes rhubarbes and so forth plenty when I got them in informal Parisian patisseries. I have no reason to disbelieve you when you tell us about the decline of patisseries, but when your basis for comparison is American pastries... :biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ptipois, from my standpoint, the decline you've noticed is from a very high starting point. Yes, I had better patisserie outside of Paris. But I enjoyed tartes rhubarbes and so forth plenty when I got them in informal Parisian patisseries.

If you had good rhubarb tarts in Paris, they were most probably the result of Alsatian skill. Honestly, rhubarb is not a familiar ingredient in Paris and pâtissiers have no particular talent for it, and no special recipes. The rhubarb tarts you're likely to come across in Parisian pâtisseries are Alsatian-style. And Alsatian pastry is not declining.

In order to judge the decline of pastry shops in Paris and other parts of France, it is necessary to have seen the process at work for the last 30 years, be it in the decline of quality or the gradual disappearing of crucial pastry shops. And the process I'm describing is unfortunately quite real, however many good rhubarb tarts you've had.

I have no reason to disbelieve you when you tell us about the decline of patisseries, but when your basis for comparison is American pastries... :biggrin:

Where did you read such a thing? Unless you mistook my mention of Frédéric Robert, a French pâtissier now working in Vegas, for an opinion on American pastries.

However, now that you mention it, and all things considered, I tend to have a high opinion of home-style American baking and pastry-making. It is, truly, a wonderfully rich and tasty tradition, and if I don't consider it superior to French home-style pastry-making, I certainly now rate it higher than most store-bought French pâtisserie in France.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ptipois ca va ?, hey i just want to say thank's (for what ,you may ask??) because your post really 2x "open up" my eyes about french pastry, i know maybe it's just a post for other, but it mean so much to me.

merci beaucoups

Thanks, Hiro. Your question inspired me a lot because it was pointing at matters I've been thinking about too. I'm glad I could be of some help to you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They're just not a 'fusion' culture.

David, ours is a fusion culture, just like any other. You're right in the fact that many French have forgotten this in the latter part of the 20th century. But the French way of operating fusion is not by adding together, juxtaposing and sometimes mixing: it is done by absorbing, by making a heterogeneous element "completely French". Which makes the fusion not apparent, but it still is fusion.

French cuisine absorbed every single spice brought in from the Colonies and Comptoirs in the 17th and 18th century. It absorbed ingredients from the New World (potatoes, beans, tomatoes, etc.) just like other European countries. It absorbed Italian court cuisine in the 16th century and that was the origin of modern French cuisine. It absorbed the many foreign influences from across borders through their "frontalier" regions, i.e. Savoie, Comté de Nice, Pays Basque, Flanders. A little-remembered fact, it absorbed much Russian cuisine and table service in the 19th century, an influence that remained visible until the 1970's and Nouvelle cuisine, and the curiosity for non-french cuisines was quite strong in the first part of the 20th century, as period domestic cookbooks will tell. Cassoulet (see the ingredients), the quintessential French dish, is typically a fusion dish. French culture was built from many fusions and influences, but it is true that it doesn't look that way, and most of the time it won't admit it. One of the most important modern French cultural illusions is this belief of being homogenous and sui generis, which is our particular brand of chauvinism. But one doesn't have to believe it...

Thanks Ptipois, you're right. As an American, I tend to forget anything that happened more than 20 years ago. One of our many deficiencies...

Yes, there is the wonderful assimilation of those cultures, and the fusion of spices, sugar, and chocolate that is a permanent part of French cuisine.

Even the venerable macaron was 'fusion' food!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks Ptipois, you're right. As an American, I tend to forget anything that happened more than 20 years ago. One of our many deficiencies...

Yes, there is the wonderful assimilation of those cultures, and the fusion of spices, sugar, and chocolate that is a permanent part of French cuisine.

Even the venerable macaron was 'fusion' food!

Yes David, but nevertheless you had a point about French cuisine, in its present state, not being very good with fusion. It's not so much a cultural problem as a historical one. The facts I brought back to mind are all too often overlooked by the French themselves and it is true, in these days, that there is a reluctance to opening up to other influences, or if they do it always seems to be a bit more complicated than elsewhere. In France a chef will be likely to brag "look, I'm using coriander and long pepper now, ain't I cool?" while a British or American chef will just use them and not make a fuss about it.

In those early years of the 21st century, we francos seem to be somewhat imprisoned in our beautiful culture, not quite finding either a way out (for renewal) or a way back (for going back to sources). It hasn't always been that way. And certainly not in the 17th and 18th century, when this culture was at its peak.

A good example: go to Le Divellec for properly chosen, cooked and sauced fish, French style, and you won't find better anywhere. But let the same chef decide to make a tajine and, well — that's quite another metter. Younger chefs will be better at it, especially chefs who have travelled a lot. Which brings me to Le Pré Verre. I adore this restaurant and I count Philippe Delacourcelle as one of the most interesting, balanced and humble chefs in Paris now. I love his knowledge of spices and flavorings, a unique quality that he earned during his many long trips to Asia. But I also notice that the kitchen is tiny, and the kitchen crew quite stressed and hurried. I too have noticed an excessive sprinkling of spices just before sending out. That happens when the kitchen is overwhelmed. Last week I nearly choked and had a fit of cough on a layer of piment d'Espelette (and I suggested he should go easy on it: espelette is not something you want to stuff your mouth with). But I consider that sort of thing an accident, or a sign that they should push the kitchen walls — or give up turning the tables.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[...]
I have no reason to disbelieve you when you tell us about the decline of patisseries, but when your basis for comparison is American pastries... :biggrin:

Where did you read such a thing? Unless you mistook my mention of Frédéric Robert, a French pâtissier now working in Vegas, for an opinion on American pastries.

However, now that you mention it, and all things considered, I tend to have a high opinion of home-style American baking and pastry-making. It is, truly, a wonderfully rich and tasty tradition, and if I don't consider it superior to French home-style pastry-making, I certainly now rate it higher than most store-bought French pâtisserie in France.

I feel like comparing home baking in one country with bakery baking in another is a little bit of an apple-and-orange thing, almost unfair.

But I'm replying mainly to explain what I meant by "your basis for comparison." We Americans use "your" to mean "one's" -- or, in this case, my, not actually yours. Sorry for the semantical confusion. :hmmm::laugh:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why do French chefs leave France? The pay sucks in France. I made 6-7 times in Seoul what I made in France. I make more money as an instructor in Los Angeles teaching one shift than I would slaving away for 60 hours a week in France with my own place assuming that it would be successful. Of course this is even assuming I could even get the investors to open my own place in France. In Los Angeles, I can go cook for a wealthy family just on weekends and make more money than I would as a chef de cuisine in a pretty nice place in France. The whole system is still very old guard, old boys network. The pay scale is very different. Of course not all or even most American chefs make what I make either.

There is a guest instructor from the Ottawa Le Cordon Bleu at my school. He's from a village in the Beaujolais that is 10 minutes from where I'm from. We know many of the same people in the area. He worked with some of the greats in France. He's extremely talented. Guess why he left France?

Most of the discussion here is like comparing apples to oranges. Doesn't make sense to me to talk about the products like this. This vs that or what's better. That's subjective. Some of the comparisons too are like taking the best examples of one then comparing them to the worst examples of another.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By Gunnsr42
      Hello foodies. Tell us what work of art you're cooking for your meals these days. 
    • By weinoo
      Le Coucou is the new restaurant (opened for reals last week) collaboration between restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Daniel Rose of Spring, a fairly acclaimed restaurant located in Paris. That backstory need not be explained here; suffice to say that Significant Eater and I have had the pleasure of dining at both the tiny Spring 1 (once), and the more ambitious Spring 2 (a number of times), and it was always a fun and delicious time.
       
      Plenty of restaurants open in New York City; often they come with lots and lots of hype. Le Coucou is certainly one of them, as the PR bandwagon got rolling a while ago. And normally we like to give restaurants at least a little while to get their footing, but with this one we just couldn't wait, so off we were to Lafayette Street - on night two of service. I didn't even know if we'd get a table, since we were sans ressies, but we figured we could just grab a cocktail, even if we couldn't have dinner. But arriving early, we were offered a table by the charming Maître D' and lovely hostesses and hosts, though we did have a drink first, in their rather intimate lounge area.
       
      Now, I'd introduced myself and Sig Eater to Daniel at Spring years ago, as a friend of a friend. And again, when we were lucky enough to dine at the new Spring. But here, even before I was seated, Daniel (who had zero idea we were coming to have dinner) was by our side, greeting me by name and with hugs and cheek kisses - you know, that lovely French way. And even though he looked like he wanted nothing more than to pass out on the extremely comfortable banquette, he returned to our table any number of time during our meal, to make sure we were enjoying our dinner, to see if there was anything we'd like him to "whip up." Basically the consummate host.
       
      French has been seeing a serious revival in NYC over the past couple of years, and that makes us happy, as we love French cooking.  I mean, one need look no further than Rebelle, or Racines, or MIMI, or Chevalier, or...well, you get the picture. And here, with classic French technique executed fairly flawlessly, we were in heaven. One of our favorite dishes is a simple Poireaux, poached leeks served in a bracing vinaigrette. Here, chef adds a little something extra, topping the leeks with sweet, roasted hazelnuts. What about fried Delaware eel? Normally, my eel exposure is limited to sushi bars, where the earthy eel get a sweetish topping. At Le Coucou, the Anguilles frites au sarassin are as light as a feather, the eel's buckwheat batter playing well with curried vinaigrette and a subtle brunoise of citrus.
       
      Mimolette is a French cheese that as recently as a few years ago had its import halted by the food police, aka the FDA. It's back, and here it graces Asperges au vinaigre de bois. It's a simple lightly-roasted asparagus salad, made special by a smoked wood vinegar sourced somewhere in the wilds of Canada.

      Asparagus salad
      One of the dishes chef sent to our table was a knockout - a whole sea bream stuffed with lobster - and my guess is the menu is changing daily, because as I look while writing this, it's not on the online menu now. But here's a picture anyway.

      Lobster stuffed sea bream
       A classic of the French culinary canon is Quenelle de brochet. As Julia says in Mastering the Art I, "A quenelle, for those who are not familiar with this delicate triumph of French cooking, is pâte à choux with a purée of raw fish...formed into ovals or cylinders and poached in a seasoned liquid. Served hot in good sauce, quenelles make a distinguished first course. A good quenelle is light as a soufflé..."

      Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine
      Yes it is. And indeed it was. Our main course, which we shared because we wanted to save room for cheeses, was Bourride, a Provencal fish stew that might be known in places like Nice as bouillabaisse. Here, the fabulous fish fumet is stocked with halibut, mussels, clams, and Santa Barbara spot prawns. Served alongside, toasted baguette slathered with aïoli. Suck the head of those prawns, dip the bread, and pretend you're somewhere other than Chinatown - it's easy enough, once inside, because this is a lovely space.
       
      Our 3-cheese selection (all American) was swoon-worthy to Significant Eater, and served alongside was an accompaniment of 3 different beverages, which I don't really know if everyone gets - or if Daniel was just being extra nice to us.
       
      Speaking of nice, the service staff is super. There was a horde of people working on both the floor and in the kitchen. The front of house people were professional, yet casual. There have a been a few notable restaurant openings this year, where service has been a bit "clumsy." Not here, where everyone is on the same page, and that enhances the experience greatly.
       
      What else can I write? Well, I am sad we didn't get to enjoy dessert - we just ate too damn much, but next time! And while we were unexpectedly treated like old friends, with 3 comped dishes from the kitchen and a couple of glasses of champagne when we sat down at our table, I looked around the restaurant any number of times, and everyone sure looked happy. The wine list is extensive - maybe that's part of the reason? There are tablecloths on the tables. There are comfortable chairs. Reservations are taken. All grown-up stuff. But most of all, once you taste this cooking, I think you're going to be happy as well.
       
      Le Coucou
       
    • By borgr
      I want to leave my sourdough (itself, not baked loaves of sourdough bread) for a while (going abroad) but I do not want it to die, can I leave it in the freezer? do you have other ideas?
    • By Droo
      I'm always finding that my glazes are incredibly thick when I downscale my recipes. I am not sure whether it is the ingredients I use, my technique or the recipe is problematic when scaled down. 
       
      Do I just add sugar syrup to thin it down to required viscosity?
       
    • By Dman104
      Not sure if this is the right place to be posting this. I'm looking for a restaurant that serves La Potence, had it a few times on holiday in the French Alps several years ago and want to introduce this to my girlfriend. Does anyone know of anywhere that serves this??? I live in the South East (Milton Keynes - an hour out of London) but enjoyed it so much last time that would be willing to travel a fair distance to have this meal again.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.